June 14, 2021

Wright named medical director for Patient Access Services

Rick Wright, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been named medical director for Patient Access Services (PAS).


by Jill Clendening

Rick Wright, MD

Rick Wright, MD, chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been named medical director for Patient Access Services (PAS).

In the medical director role, Wright will partner with Chanell Branch, Vice President of Patient Access Services, and Thomas Nantais, MBA, Executive Vice President of Adult Ambulatory Operations, to assess and develop improvements to the PAS operating process, with the goals of enhanced service levels for patients and improved communications between clinical departments and PAS.

“Access is frequently cited as a critical priority for our VMG physicians — ensuring that our patients are seen by the proper clinician at the correct location in a timely manner,” said Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Patient Experience Officer. “Across our enterprise, we have seen the incredible value of close collaboration between our clinical and operational leaders.

“I am thrilled that our chair of the Department of Orthopedics, Dr. Rick Wright, has agreed to take on the role of medical director for our Access Center. His department has been at the forefront of easy patient access, and I am excited that he will be partnering with Tom Nantais and Chanell Branch in this key medical center program.”

PAS works in collaboration with VUMC clinical teams to provide a seamless patient experience, from the first phone call to the day of the appointment and beyond. More than 300 employees make up the Patient Access Center, with 270 of those employed in Care Connections, the centralized front-line contact center located in Green Hills. There, employees handle incoming calls related to access to care, with a process standardized for all clinics throughout the Medical Center.

“I’d like to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Wright on being appointed to this position,” said Branch. “He shares in the vision of delivering barrier-free patient access, and I am truly optimistic about the future of PAS and the accomplishments yet to come.”

Patient Access Services handles more than 4 million inbound and outbound calls annually, resulting in more than 2 million appointments made. Care Connections plays a key role in facilitating appointments originating from work queues resulting from the patient’s initial visit to VUMC. Most recently, PAS also managed the COVID-19 Hot Line, COVID-19 vaccine scheduling and the Adult Post-Acute COVID Clinic call lines. The coverage of these three key areas was pivotal in the success of the VUMC COVID vaccine program.

A Referral Management Center, a separate unit within Care Connections, manages all internal and external patient referrals in one location. The Referral Management Center also serves as a think-tank/test environment for new processes and technology.

“We are very pleased to be partnering with Dr. Wright,” said Nantais. “Our PAS division is the front door to VUMC, and the addition of Dr. Wright will better strengthen the bond between the clinics and PAS, thus providing a stellar experience for our patients. His prior experience in the Access milieu in St. Louis will be invaluable as we move to a “world-class” Access operation.”

Wright joined VUMC in September 2019 from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he was the Jerome J. Gilden Distinguished Professor and executive vice chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.